Nov 14, 2011

Given the Circumstances...

I have decided I am not a kind wife when it comes to my husband being sick.

There are a lot of factors here, especially with regard to the timing of this particular illness, and I should probably feel at least a little bad, if not about the fact that he is sick, then perhaps about the fact that I feel more sternness than compassion (I told him he was being ridiculous and needed to be sick more quietly).

To begin with, last week was one for the books that detail a mom's most dreaded events in life: at home with the kids and sickness in the house. In a nutshell, the kids got sick, and then I got sick, and then we were all sick-ish for longer than I am accustomed to.

During this time the Cat Daddy was on a 10-day TDY (ie, business trip). It was a big convention of sorts, the culmination of months of hard work from folks around the nation. So they came together to wrap up their efforts. The Cat Daddy was in charge of making sure certain portions came together, and making sure other folks did what they were supposed to, and stuff like that. In the end, the Cat Daddy's wing (big group of people at work) came home with some high honors, and he had a super-duper time of things. A work hard/play harder situation, if you will.

Some (including me) would call it a boondoggle, but everything was on the up & up. Plus, I remember some really cool business trips I got to take in a previous life, so I really don't want to begrudge him a fun work trip. It's just a bit of a slap in the face to be sipping chicken soup (lovingly brought by a friend), having cleaned poop off the carpet for the zillionth time in a week, and be subjected to stories about cool hotels, and casinos during off-time, and whatnot. Pleased for him; bummed out about the timing for me.

Anyhow, time passed, the boys got mostly better, I got marginally better, and the Cat Daddy returned--Yay!! The weekend passed quickly with us painting several rooms in our house (with another loving friend keeping the boys for the weekend), just in time for the Cat Daddy to come down with what I assume is the same crud the boys and I had.

Now, once I discovered/admitted that it was in fact a bug infecting our family (a week or so ago), I canceled and minimized commitments, and we stayed close to home and watched a whole lot of TV. No fun, but minimally invasive, all things considered. Although it has taken longer than I felt it should have, the boys' functions are all very-nearly normal again, and while I have lingering blahs, I'm definitely on the upswing. So I was feeling optimistic-ish about this week. Fresh start, easing back into health, and so on.

The Cat Daddy on the other hand, is quite possibly the epitome of husband-sickness. Where I have accused him of Suck-It-Up Syndrome in other areas of life, when it comes to sickness he lets it all out and then some. And due to the nature of his job, he can't just take a couple days off and get better. He had to report to sick call at the base clinic bright and early this morning. Sick call is where they can make sure folks aren't faking, get all up in their business, and also get them the medical care they need to get better quick and get back to work. The Cat Daddy has driven himself to sick call in the past, and once in the past he came up with a fairly nasty sickness which implied that he probably should not have driven himself to sick call, and I think I probably have some lingering guilt from when he asked me to drive him this morning I agreed.

"This is not fair!!" I said.

But even with sick call it's not quite that simple--he has paperwork to fill out. So we had to stop by the office both before & after sick call. And the doctor gave him anti-nausea meds to help him thru the crud, and then gave him more paperwork ordering him "to quarters" for a couple days to recover. Meaning, he is ordered to stay home and rest.

"I did not get paperwork ordering me to rest!" I said in my head.

He asked me to drive home faster.

I told him to stop talking and go to sleep and be sick.

He is sad I'm mad at him for getting sick. I contend that I'm really not mad at the real and true Cat Daddy. I'm mad at his virus, and I'm mad at his sick-self, who needs to sleep it off and please-stop-moaning-so-I-can-sleep-for-goodness'-sake.

In his defense, he stopped the moaning. I think he'll be on the upswing by tomorrow. Maybe we'll all be on the road to health by the end of the week. I hope. I don't have any boondoggles on the horizon, but I am plotting little pockets of escape for myself in the coming weeks.

I don't think the Caribbean is unreasonable...

Oct 22, 2011

God and Potty Talk...

His Highness is smack in the middle of a big potty-talk phase. Pee-pee-this and poo-poo-that and so on. He has mostly moved past the completely made-up words, so this is progress in its own little way. As for my response, depending on the circumstance, I vacillate between ignoring it, replying with an immature phrase of my own ("YOU are!!" etc), and explaining when & where potty talk is appropriate, and that most people don't like it randomly inserted into conversation. Some do, but most don't.

So tonight I was lying down with the boys at bedtime, and we said a prayer to thank God for the day. I ended with an "A-MEN!"

The Littler One said "A-MEN!"

His Highness said "Pee-pee-amen!"

Nice touch, son. Nice touch...

Sep 12, 2011

On Waterfalls and Purple Lava Creeks...

The Good Reverend posted this on his Facebook page today:

You are in the Psalms. To treat them like a didactic epistle, where you interpret all the words correctly and give a 2-sentence answer to a bland "how does this apply to you?" while others politely nod and snack on pastries, is to miss them entirely. You'll need different shoes. You'll get torn up, tripped up. You'll stumble upon places you never wanted to go. But you may, if you stay, experience yourself completely alone with God in the most beautiful waterfall--naked and blissfully unashamed.

Which was, of course exactly the thing my heart needed to hear and ponder today. It reminds me of this passage from The Ragamuffin Gospel:

After the group read the passage, the pastor offered some historical background on this period in salvation-history, including the prevalence of child sacrifice among the Canaanites. The group listened in awkward silence.

Then the pastor asked, "But what does this story mean to us?"

A middle-aged man spoke up. "I'll tell you the meaning this story has for me. I've decided that me and my family are looking for another church."

The pastor was astonished, "What? Why?"

"Because," the man said, "when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I'm near a real God, not the sort of dignified, businesslike, Rotary Club God we chatter about here on Sunday mornings. Abraham's God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person, and then want more. I want to know that God."

Now I love pastries--Chocolate eclair? Yes please--and I love sitting with a group of people, contemplating God and his stuff. But I do think it's extremely valuable, while we are sitting very comfortably on our couches, eating goodies and comparing NIV with NASB and the Message, to remember that at the end of things we will still be left with a God who will blow our minds every time. AND who loves us beyond words. The combination of which will also blow our minds every time. It makes me feel restless in a good way, I think. When I get bored or tired, or so frustrated with the daily queasies it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out, I remember the beauty and freshness and excitement I feel--like an October gust in Cheyenne--when I get an inkling of God's power and love. Even when (or maybe especially when) it's something that disrupts me somehow. Yeah it's great when it means good and comfortable things for me: a declaration of health for a family member, or getting to do exciting things at work, or just random little daily gifts. I prefer that, actually--who wouldn't?

But then again...those times when he has called me beyond my limits, even though the most exquisitely painful in the moment, have somehow pulled me in the closest and deepened my trust the most, you know? Like physically pulling me out of Arizona ten years ago (away from family, and roots, and dreams) and into something completely different. Sometimes amazing, sometimes underwhelming, sometimes flat-out bizarre. But always keeping me--a big fan of consistency and predictability--wondering, "What on earth do you have next for us?!?"

You know that story about stepping out into the darkness? Something about faith, and learning to fly instead of falling, or something? Well, I'm pretty sure I'm not the person who learns to fly. I'm almost certain I'm the one who sticks a foot out and finds another stone to stumble onto, and then sticks a foot out and maybe falls a little bit before landing on a ledge, and so on. I am still scared every time...but these days it's a familiar fear, so it's not quite so bad as the first one (or ten) was. But I think what's great about God is that he never stops asking me to do it. I don't know that he's trying to teach me confidence, or faith, or trust or any "lessons" of sorts (although those things can certainly be a happy byproduct). I think it's sort of like when I set out with my kids to see what we can find, and they are unfamiliar with a new place, and I go, "Come on boys, let's go this way." I want to share the adventure with them, the discovery. I think that's sort of what it's like with God. He has all sorts of crazy, mind-blowing stuff to show me, and he wants to share the wonder and discovery of it all.

Now in the process he can do some pretty unexpected things, and not necessarily happy ones at that, where I sort of go "Wait, what was that? I thought--" And still, maybe (probably) even without answering the question, he's going, "Come on kid, I've got you. Follow me."

And pastries are awesome, but not as cool as rock-hopping on a purple lava creek by way of Mars, that's all I'm saying...

Aug 28, 2011

Tired Day...

These days are challenging.

But first let me clarify what I know and am grateful for--

--We have fantastic children.
--We have been able to have them with little difficulty--no infertility, no complications, and good health overall.
--I have had regular, low-risk pregnancies. No bed-rest, or house-rest, or any real "scares" to speak of (there was the Level 2 ultrasound with His Highness, but even it led to reassuring news that he was healthy and just fine).
--So far this pregnancy, in terms of sickness and whatnot, is more similar to His Highness's than the Littler One's. That is, fairly mild. And I feel fabulous in the mornings--my favorite time.

That said, here are the things on my mind--

--The afternoon queasies appear every day like clockwork. So far there is no puking, but the effect is enough to make me want to lie low and not do much after 2pm or so.
--Sugar wants to hurt me, so I'm being super-careful about what I eat. This is healthy and good for me, but it makes me just a little bit sad.
--My butt and I are not getting along. I am seeing my physical therapist, but am having lots of stiffness & soreness. Boo for physical pain.
--The reality of the hard work and energy that it takes to fight/deal with my neuroses. I can be quite a piece of work some days.
--Making sure I don't isolate myself (depression-trigger), but at the same time conserving my energy so I don't wear myself out (anxiety-trigger, which then triggers depression).
--Wondering if I'm engaging enough with my kiddos.
--The combined fatigue of all of the above.

I am tired! And today is a tired day--I woke up tired and have continued this way throughout the day. Truth be told, I am just not all that big on being "enchanted" (somehow it sounds more delicate to me than plain old "pregnant"). It makes me want to fast forward through these months to the end of March(ish), when I will be un-enchanted and, even with the hard work of newborn-ness, much more comfortable in general.

Oh, but wait. Next summer is when we're scheduled to move. My last year in a place always makes me want to slow down & savor my favorite people & parts of wherever it is we are stationed. So I want to take in these next several months and not just rush through them. I want to see and appreciate what is, so that next summer I will be better prepared to face the joys and pains of leaving well.

So you see, I am again living in ambivalence. I think most everyone lives with some degree of it; I just wonder if somehow I pick up more of it than most. My problem, sometimes, is not that I only see one side of things; it is that I see both (or many) sides of things, making it harder to define what I really think and feel, and thereby more difficult to choose a side. On the one hand, I'm sure folks and factors on all sides appreciate my being able to understand them; on the other I come across as more than a little wishy-washy.

On days like today I search for a way to kick myself in the butt--some kind of mental cattle-prod, or emotional zapper, or something. Something to say, "Come on, Skerrib--keep your perspective!" But I don't have a magic button (or cattle-prod). I have my regular, ordinary, sane-makers, which are cumulative and rarely instantaneous. I have God, whom I'm fully confident is right beside me and is maybe even carrying me across this ridiculous beach (Come on, "Footprints in the Sand" fans...). And I have all the good and positive thoughts above, to remind myself to keep it in perspective.

And hey, at least I don't have tuberculosis...

Jul 31, 2011

Smart Boy...

The Littler One has had a breakthrough this weekend.

We started potty-training a month ago. Now, I know you're all thinking "Wow, he's only two and already you are potty-training him. You are brilliant and motivated, Skerrib," but the fact is that I am on the lazy end of things and wouldn't have even thought of it, except that it was his idea. He started randomly taking off his diapers (and laughing at me while he did it), and he wanted to sit on the potty like his big brother, which is hilarious because His Highness is of the opinion that going to the potty is a pain and interrupts playtime.

So I thought, "Hey I'd better take advantage of this while he wants to do it." But I didn't want to do the Pull-Ups. First off, they are expensive and I am cheap. Second, my kids seem to follow the line of reasoning that having a diaper-ish thing there to catch the drips and poops means that everything is OK and there is no need to put anything in the potty.

So I bought a bunch of old-school, white cotton training pants, and when we got back from our summer vacation we began a modified verson of potty boot camp. We stayed close to home for a couple days to get the basic idea down. You go sit on the potty for a few minutes. If any pee or poop comes out, you get an awesome reward. If not, you get a mediocre reward for trying. I learned from the first time around that teeny-tiny rewards are just as awesome as ridiculously expensive rewards, and you don't actually need to buy the entire fleet of Cars cars to convince your kid to poop in the potty. Or maybe we did for His Highness, but I was determined not to do the same thing with the sequel or The Littler One.

Boot camp was good because it let us try lots of things and figure out what would likely work this time around. Tootsie Roll Midgees are sufficient for a potty success, and those little colored star stickers are grand for a try. Around the house, naked works better than training pants. We also figured out that the Littler One very much values his freedom of choice, and will only sit on the potty when he wants to, and for as long as he wants to, so in general when we went out we put potty-training on hold and let him wear a diaper.

Overall we've had little successes along the way, and The Littler One seemed to be progressing, albeit gradually, until yesterday. Yesterday something clicked, and he went the entire day without a single accident. He also sat on the potty what seemed like every 10 minutes, and pushed out whatever pee was in him, even if it was a milliliter or less. That kid was on a singular, focused mission for Tootsie Rolls.

So today, with church and all, I wondered what would happen if we tried going with the training pants instead of the diaper. I'll take a little credit for my idea to put some star stickers and Tootsie Rolls in a baggie, and bingo--portable potty training. He made it all the way thru church clean & dry, earning several Tootsie Rolls along the way. We had a poop issue during lunch at the restaurant, but in the big scheme of things this is massive progress.

He has been so successful that we ran out of Tootsie Rolls, so we transitioned to a different potty candy. The Cat Daddy made the call to switch to Starburst, which I'm guessing is because he loves them, and I can't say I blame him either. If The Littler One keeps up this pace (and if the Cat Daddy raids the potty candy), then by next week we'll run out of Starburst, so my thought then is to switch to Skittles, and after that we'll just have to see. Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation can be a tricky thing, so I'm treading lightly and carefully.

I have no words of wisdom for those who are in the throes of potty training. I have been just as gratefully stymied this time around as I was frustrated with the oldest's process. Yes, we know better what seems to work for our family overall, and I've learned to look and listen and be more responsive, but for us it is as much an issue of our children's personalities as anything else. When The Littler One wants something (ie candy), he buckles down and keeps trying until he gets it. He is very determined, indeed.

Smart boy...

The Latest...

...involves drugs, or a lack thereof.

I've had a long & winding journey with depression, anxiety, and happy pills. I can't possibly do the whole thing justice within a blog post, so I'll summarize by saying that, over the past 10 years or so I've come to a place of pretty good health. I've learned the things I need to do to keep myself in a decent place--eating somewhat well, exercising (endorphins. Oh yes), positive self-talk, being as open & honest as possible in relationships, resolving issues instead of stuffing them down (resulting in emotional vomit later), blocks of therapy as needed, recognizing and dealing with my own personal triggers, and so on. Until recently, that has also included a small dose of some sort of antidepressant to help keep me on an even keel. Better living through chemistry, and all that.

On the one hand the drugs are no big deal--when I get to where my symptoms start interfering with my life (exhaustion, hopelessness, etc.), the drugs help me stay level so I can do my life in a healthier way. On the other hand...well, there are lots of differing opinions in Christian circles about depression and drugs. I could do a whole series of posts on that one. There are lots of factors to consider, but in summary I'll boil my views down to a few quick points--

--I love Jesus.
--I don't think asking for or accepting help is an indication of weak faith.
--Medicine of any sort can be useful, but you have to know what it can & cannot do.

Good? Good. Now, all that said, on the advice of my doc I have been weaning off the meds for a while now, the biggest reason being the impending arrival of Kiddo #3 next spring (yay!). The particular drug I'm on is relatively new, and the studies with regard to pregnancy just aren't there yet. Baby and I would probably be fine, but just to be extra-safe he recommended I try going off the drug, especially during the first and third trimesters.

Now generally I'm in favor of minimizing medicines as much as possible, so going off the drugs during pregnancy is a great idea for me in theory. In practice though, it is pretty daunting. I've had only a few episodes over the years where I needed a change or adjustment in meds, but during those times it has been incredibly evident that I do in fact benefit from them. So I was nervous about having to emotionally muscle my way through pregnancy without them, but I also reasoned that if it all hit the fan I could always try another drug that is older and more proven.

Thankfully, things have gone better than I expected thus far. Not that I expected them to go badly; I just wasn't sure what to expect. You take a neurotic, and then tell them to taper down their happy meds and keep track of how they feel, and you end up with me going, "So Skerrib, how do you feel? Pretty good; maybe a little tired. Maybe you need some veggies, or a nap or something," approximately every few seconds. And thus far veggies and a nap (or more accurately, going to bed at a decent hour, cuz if I take a nap then I get the insomnia in the middle of the night, and that's no fun. But I digress)--and a good amount of jogging--have actually gone a long way. So I'm quirky, but I'm also alright. I've always said my goal is to be able to be off the meds long-term, so this months-long experiment gives me hope. I'm trying not to plan too far in either direction--if I can keep healthy and deal with life and stay off the drugs, great. If, after the baby is born, I find the need to go back on them, that's OK too.

I have lots to be excited about, and lots to take with a grain of salt. Life is moving along a little more vividly these days. I'm more creative, more feeling-y, more socially awkward...just "more" overall, it seems. Except for my appropriateness-filter, which sadly is less. So if I seem a little weird, or if I come up asking you if we are "OK," it just means I'm trying to keep my perspective. Which I think is a good thing for anyone...

Jul 12, 2011

Straight Up Killaz...

Preface: The Cat Daddy was otherwise occupied, so he had no idea any of this was going on...

Tonight I was putting the boyz to bed. As I've said before, our version of "crying it out" is lying next to the crier and comforting him to sleep (friggin' hippies, we are), so I was hunkered down on the bottom bunk next to the Littler One while he settled enough to give in to sleep.

I heard a faint kitty-growl out in the living room, indicating that Nipples had come in from outside. Then the dogs leapt up and ran down the hall, barking along the way. I hate when they do this, but both kids were far enough gone that they didn't stir much, so I didn't practice my standard-yet-ineffective-yet-somehow-still-standard yell: "Zoe! Max! KNOCK IT OFF!!!!" Following was a mild commotion, punctuated by yips, and growls, and a couple of squeaks which I was fairly certain did not come out of any of my animals. So I thought, "Oh great, the cat has caught a mouse and is having some fun with it." Yesterday he'd left a mouse head on the porch for me (as well as a mouse butt/tail, I later found out), and I have in the past had the morbidly fascinated displeasure of watching him bat around a bird in preparation for the kill--in my living room--so I was not all that surprised at the prospect of finding mouse pieces on my floor.

Well, finally the children were sleeping, so I went out to the kitchen to feed the dogs and grab a little snacky before bed. They were watching the cat with rapt attention, because you see the cat was on top of the kitchen counter with his latest kill, a small rabbit. Or baby bunny, depending how sad you want to feel about it. Not newborn, or anything--probably an adolescent or 'tween bunny. I imagine he probably mouthed off to his mom and took off to cool down or something, and normally I would say taking a walk to calm yourself is a great idea, except apparently this guy forgot to watch out for cats, cuz there he was on my counter.

Now, there's a lot I'd do for a Klondike Bar, but watching my cat bat around a dead animal weighing a full pound or more while I ate it (the ice cream, not the animal) is most definitely over the line. So I temporarily shelved the ice cream idea and grabbed some makeshift gloves (folded paper towels) and went to get the rabbit from the cat. I tried to explain, and I felt I was being very fair:

"Nipples, I'm afraid you can't have that on the counter. I can't even handle it in the house I don't think, but you can keep it if you go outside with it."

Well, Nipples was in disagreement with me, and gave me a "Leave me alone, I'm butchering a kill!!" growl. He was quite intent that I not take his prize. Being that I've never had to confront a cat in this fashion, I backed off for a moment to regroup. I went downstairs to survey a day's worth of toys scattered about the floor, where I promptly decided to leave them until sometime between tomorrow and Friday. I turned out the lights and went to head upstairs, and was fairly surprised to see Nipples flying down the stairs and over to his food dish for a quick bite, leaving the rabbit unguarded back upstairs on the counter.

Well, pin a rose on my nose, I dashed back upstairs, got my paper towels and gathered up the rabbit to take him outside. The cat, promptly remembering the stakes, sprinted back up the stairs and onto the counter, looking for his bunny, and shooting evil-eye darts at me when he realized I had bested him. Again I thought I was being, at the minimum, incredibly fair:

"Look Nipples, I've got to have some sort of standards. You just can't have this guy in the house. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is."

Well, he was still pretty irked about that, but he is one of three creatures in the house that recognize me as the boss (on a good day), and seemed resigned to my suddenly acquiring standards. I showed him where I put the bunny, and told him he was free to do with it as he wished, as long as it stayed outside.

It's funny, my college friend Fazzi (the cat's previous owner) said he never brought in any dead animals (or parts thereof) when he lived with her it's as though Wyoming has opened up a whole new aspect of his personality. We would always say that Pim was a lover, not a fighter. Well, Nipples is wonderfully gentle with people, especially children, but when it comes to small animals, he is a straight-up killer. It can't possibly help the situation that we have a bird feeder in the front yard (and we've wondered aloud if that's not actually a twisted thing to do to birds, but the feeder was there before the cat and we are in fact a little twisted, so there you have it), but even if we didn't...the cat loves to hunt.

The happy ending, of course, is that I eventually did get my Klondike bar, so all's well that ends well. And now I must go pick up the remaining bunny fur bits and bleach the counter.

I like to think I can take most things in stride; even dead rabbits on the counter. But I will say this: if Nipples EVER brings me a snake, we will have words, he and I...

Jul 4, 2011

Gladly Stand Up Next to You [and gag]...

Cheyenne might be the best-kept secret when it comes to Independence Day fireworks. The past couple years we've watched them from the softball fields on base--you can see them almost as well as if you were at the Frontier Stadium, but you don't have quite the amount of traffic you find if you're in the thick of things.

This year, though, we decided to venture to the stadium. And you know what we found out? The view from inside the stadium is about 25 zillion times better than at the softball fields, and is totally worth the traffic and noise. When we were entering, the Cat Daddy remarked, "I wonder where they'll set the fireworks off from?" and I was all, "I dunno, they don't have barges like when we saw the fireworks in Boston that one year" (which was the awesomeness, BTW).

It turns out that, for the fireworks show, they close off one side of the stadium. So everyone sits on the west side, and they set off the fireworks from the east side. You know how sometimes when you see a firework climbing into the sky before it explodes, and it looks almost peaceful? Well, when you are 50 yards from the launch sites you can see how fiery it actually is. OK, maybe "fiery" is too strong a term, but definitely "ember-y," if you will. There's nothing peaceful about launching fireworks, that's for sure.

Now, these were the real deal. There were perhaps a good many fewer fireworks involved than one would find in a big city, but what they lacked in quantity they made up in sheer and blatant proximity. No one's retinas were burned or anything, but it's not because they didn't try. As the fireworks cracked and boomed, we could watch them fade to embers. At first I thought, "Wow, the fireworks seem so close," but as I followed the embers all the way to the rodeo dirt in front of us I thought, "By golly, someone's going to catch fire if they're not careful." Luckily for the finale I succumbed and covered my ears, because I think I very nearly ruptured an eardrum. So while those over on the base saw maybe 70% of the fireworks, the remainder didn't clear the stadium walls enough to be seen by the poor saps on the outside.

And while some might think, "Oh goodness, that sounds unpleasant," it was quite possibly the coolest fireworks show ever. Cheyenne does have that Wild West spirit about it, part of which is a sort of bratty, "I'm gonna do what I want and you can't stop me" spirit. In a good way. The vibe I got was along the lines of "We like to experience our fireworks, and there are no trees to burn down so we're going hardcore with it." Plus the opening song was the Toby Keith one about America putting its boot in a$$es, which of course contributed to the independent rebel feel.

Now here's a situation where my intelligence occasionally...slips out for a bit. Prior to the fireworks they had a local country band, and then the main pre-show of the night was Tops in Blue (an Air Force touring musical group). I have no idea how I made it this long without figuring it, but I had always assumed that Tops in Blue was sort of similar to the Boston Pops. Or any other Pops, for that matter. It was not until this evening, reading the Tops in Blue program, that I realized that, while the two words rhyme, "Tops" is not the same as "Pops." At all. Rather than being a cool orchestral deal, Tops in Blue is more like show choir. Think "Glee," minus drama, plot twists, and any over-the-top cool/crazy/glam factors (And obviously minus any gay folks, since Don't Ask Don't Tell isn't quite gone yet, and it is a military group, after all). While most of the members themselves were obviously talented--and well-practiced in jazz hands--the show was...well, it did get better as the show went on, but let's just say it was not as cool as the fireworks and leave it at that.

Now, each of the musical groups of course did "Proud to Be An American." And then the fireworks show, not to be outdone, did it too, bringing the grand total for the night to three--count them, THREE--rounds of the dang song, which simply is not one of my favorites. Once upon a time I really liked it, and then I heard it overplayed and hoke-i-fied beyond all reason, and now I make poking motions at my eyeballs when I hear it. Sorry. I did mime a big gigantic drum fill all three times at the part of the chorus near the end of the song with the pause and/or big gigantic drum fill, depending on which version you're listening to. So it's not a total hatred of the song or anything. Maybe just a mostly-hatred, or a heavy dislike perhaps.

We sat with Ms Sitter and her boys, and we brought along the glow bracelets which were a Target dollar bin treasure a few weeks back. They were a big hit. So much so that, at the end of everything when we were all getting up to trek to our cars, His Highness told Ms Sitter's kids, "We're going to need those back." Thankfully I heard him, because I was then able to calm the stricken boys by reassuring them that they could, in fact, keep their glow bracelets, and to remind His Highness that we had brought them to share with our friends, even for keeps in this case.

Even the Cat Daddy, who in general can find very little he enjoys about Cheyenne, was impressed by the perceived danger level of the fireworks show. And that's saying something...

Jun 6, 2011

Waving at the Bus...

So, this past school year a dad got up and waved at his son's school bus every morning. In costume...

Click Here

I vote fabulous.

Jun 4, 2011

Unlikely Friends II...

Unlikely Friends I

Well, to be honest I kept my distance for a while. This new friend-of-my-friend was a strong personality and I wasn't quite sure how to take her.

But then an interesting thing happened. I got to the point where I decided that in order to keep doing my occasional nerd-work from home, I was going to need to get some childcare during work times. Juggling kids and house was just too much to pile in with work requiring peace & quiet, and I had a month or so left on the project I was working at the time.

And not a week later I was hanging at Ms. Diva's house, and the Friend-of-my-Friend happened to be there also and--having decided that she needed a way to make some cash--said, "Do you know anyone who needs childcare?" To which I replied, "As a matter of fact, I need about 10 hours per week of childcare for the next month or so." And then my one month of work turned into three, and before we knew it, the Friend-of-my-Friend became Ms. Sitter Extraordinaire.

I was nervous at first. With the Littler One's many intense feelings, I was nervous about leaving him for 10 hours per week. And not knowing Ms. Sitter all that well, I was nervous (hopeful?) that she (and her two boys) would be a good match for my boys. She assured me that they all would have a great time swimming in the kid-pool and jumping on the trampoline, and I snuck out and went home to my first session of peaceful work-work in a very long time.

Within an hour Ms. Sitter texted me a photo of the Littler One up to his eyeballs in water and dirt, with a huge grin across his face. I relaxed. Within a few weeks, anytime we saw Ms. Sitter at church or out & about, the Littler One squirmed his way out of my arms so he could go give her a hug. And about a month into things, Ms Sitter suggested that, instead of sneaking out like normal, I give the Littler One a kiss good-bye and leave openly. And Voila--no more sneaking out.

Also, as the Littler One made friends with Ms Sitter, I noticed him becoming a little calmer with other folks as well. Not everyone, and not all the time, but still a noticeable improvement from before, when he would scream anytime I left him with pretty much anyone, the Cat Daddy included.

His Highness has always been pretty easygoing, so the fact that he blended right into the mix was no surprise to me. The brilliant part, though, was the way Ms Sitter had of explaining social norms to both her boys and my own. I think we have fairly similar discipline styles to begin with, but Ms. Sitter has a way of explaining things that is logical, reasonable, not too sugary, and of course funny and sarcastic when needed. I like to be a fly on the wall when she is breaking up fights and whatnot because she gives me fresh words to use that make me sound like a parenting genius.

So all in all, we had a successful match as far as childcare was concerned. It didn't stop there though...

May 8, 2011

Unlikely Friends I...

This one starts a couple years ago, actually. So maybe it will become my next bloggy-saga. Or not; who knows.

So we go back to what turned out to be the end of our year-long church hunting journey. We joined the current church, having been sucked in by the extreme kindness and friendship of those who are now our current FOCUS group (fancy name for "cell" group, or "small" group, or whatever). At the time they were going through a sort of transformation, exploring the idea of reaching out to those in everyday life--neighbors, co-workers, or whomever they came across on a daily basis. And then taking it a step further, & showing them God's love with no strings attached, but also being available if they want to know more about this God and his love. I'm a big fan of this approach, and you'd think this would be a common & desirable thing among Christians and their communities, but sadly it is rare in my experience. I think a lot of us Christians have a bit of a superiority complex when it comes to reaching out to others, and somehow those nasty strings manage to work their way in, so when so-and-so doesn't automatically want to convert, we have a hard time being OK with that. With all that in mind, I was especially proud of this group of folks who were daring to take on such a great experiment & see what God did with it.

As a group we explored ways we might reach out to folks in our everyday lives. The Cat Daddy and I talked about opening up our yard sale to our neighbors, turning it into a sort of neighborhood yard sale. Other folks had great, normal ideas.

My awesomely awesome diva-friend's oldest son was starting preschool, so she talked about making friends with some of the other preschool moms. As it turned out, her opportunity came quickly at drop-off one day, when she had to hand off her then-youngest to a random stranger so that she could deal with her oldest's puking, or tantrum, or some other preschool-type emergency requiring two hands.

Well, you can guess what happened next. The two moms got to talking and struck up a friendship. The random stranger turned out to be a single mom with a colorful life--past, present and everywhere in between. On the surface she was a tough-talking, awesomely inappropriate welfare-mom with two boys, both bright and brilliant, and each with their own quirks and challenges. Down a little deeper was a lady who loved God (or was pretty sure she did, anyway) and wanted good things for her sons, but also came from generations of pain, abuse, poor choices, and just plain bad luck (yes, I know "luck" is probably not theologically sound, but it's the best word for the time being).

Over time the two became better & better friends. Their boys went to preschool together, and soon they started having play dates. While they are both strong personalities, they are just about as opposite as you can find in two people, so the dynamic was (and still is), um, interesting at times.

And where do I fit into the mix? Stay tuned to find out...

Apr 24, 2011

So Long Coke??

I've been contemplating nutrition a lot lately; specifically, my need to be more deliberate about it in my own diet. I'm not going all-organic or anything, but I definitely need to dial down my sugar intake.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before. Sugar is my vice. Granted as far as vices go, it is relatively benign, but I do notice the effect it has on my life. Energy, feelings of depression, endurance...all are improved when I lay off the sugar. And also the other refined carbs, but mostly the sugar since it has the biggest pull on me.

Most recently I've been contemplating Coke. Currently I allow myself one per day. If I'm at home that means one bottle of Mexican Coke, usually during afternoon naptime. If I'm at a restaurant, it means a fountain Coke with lunch. Within these guidelines I am somewhat disciplined: I drink a liter of water before lunchtime most days, and sometimes I even drink a cupful of water before the Coke in the case of restaurants. I also don't drink Coke after 5pm, lest the caffeine keep me up too late.

I want to cut back the Coke to be healthier, but when it comes down to it I really like the Coke. And I've just gone the last two days without any Coke, which is proof to me that it can be done.

You may be thinking "Well duh, Skerrib, why not just have one every other day, or only on weekends (or weekdays), or some other sort of middle ground?" The problem is that, when it comes to the sugar I generally don't do well with arbitrary middle ground. I'll make a rule, and sooner or later start breaking it occasionally, and then overtime ramp it back up until I'm running around like my kids, groping into corners for every bit of junk I can consume. Even with the Coke I was starting to break my one-per-day rule in the restaurants more than occasionally, before I caught myself and dialed it back down.

Sadly, I've had the best success with all-out bans. Realistically, my best chance is to just say "no Coke, period." During the height of my health kick several years ago I limited myself to one dessert per week. Per week! It was really tough to stick to, but at the same time it was the easiest way to build in a cheat without going crazy and losing all discipline. And when I'm limited to one dessert per week, I very rarely (never?) choose soda over, say, ice cream.

So this is a dilemma I'm currently mulling over. I haven't decided what I'm going to do about it. Or rather, I haven't yet reached the place where I'm ready to do what I need to do and give up the Coke. I mean, if I give up Coke and start feeling even better, who knows what will be next--I could even go organic (or at least partially so)...

Apr 19, 2011


Growing up we ate cold cereal for breakfast most mornings. At school I would hear about kids having things like waffles or eggs and I would think, "Wow, on a school day?" In our house hot breakfasts were strictly for weekends and/or holidays. Part of me was a little resentful about this for a time. I mean gosh, couldn't my mom put in some effort to give us kids a hot breakfast and fuel our brains for a day of tough mental exertion? But then I realized I really didn't care, so no need to resent something I didn't really care about, right? Right. Plus, my night-owl mom had enough pressure on her hands getting up at the crack of dawn to get us to school and herself to her full-time job, so I don't blame her one bit. And now that I'm the mom, I think my parents were pretty smart to keep hot breakfasts a special thing.

We were the lucky kids who got to eat sugar cereals, and we were well-acquainted with nearly all of them. As the mom now I'm horrified at the stuff we were allowed to eat for breakfast, but at the time of course it seemed perfectly reasonable to eat a pile of teeny not-quite-cookies, or fake-fruity corn paste extruded into various shapes, or little rice puffs with "Super" and "Sugar" in their name. It actually made me sad when I found I didn't like Cocoa Puffs or Golden Grahams. Every so often I would try again, hoping I somehow had acquired a taste for them, but then they would sit in the pantry for weeks, until my dad took pity and finished the box for us.

Along the way there was one cereal I always wanted to try, but somehow my mom never bought it: Frosted Krispies. I don't know if I never asked or what, but we always had regular or Cocoa Krispies, or even Rice Krispies Treats cereal; but never the frosted ones. And somehow, in my mind, they had an intangible, or even magical taste quality about them. Like little snowy mountains would taste if you were suddenly transported to the land of arctic cereals with Snap, Crackle, & Pop themselves. Eventually though, Frosted Krispies were discontinued, so I had that little bit of mourning for the fact that I had never gotten to try Frosted Krispies.

Then I grew up and got married, and the Cat Daddy joined the Air Force and we started moving around the country every few years, and the Cat Daddy's dreams came true when we came upon his childhood grief cereals: Count Chocula, Boo-Berry, and Frankenberry. We showed great adult restraint and did not buy them all at once, but over time we did buy them, and the Cat Daddy consumed them with wild abandon, and was very pleased indeed. And my little pocket of grief was triggered by the fact that, while the Cat Daddy's cereals were very cool and hip, they were not Frosted Krispies, and Frosted Krispies were still discontinued, and I was likely doomed to live life with this unrealized, sugary dream.

Well, somehow and somewhere along the line, Frosted Krispies showed up on the shelves of our tiny little commissary here in Cheyenne WY. And I showed great adult restraint and didn't buy them for a long time. But last week I was standing there, thinking, "Skerrib, if you really, really want to try Frosted Krispies you had better take advantage while you can. You don't know how long they are here." I had already chosen some Frosted Flakes for the rest of the family, so I grabbed a box of Frosted Krispies as well.

Now I don't know if it's just me, or if this happens to other people, but I had a moment of foreshadowing where I thought, "Skerrib, all 'frosted' means is 'sugared.' They are just going to taste like Rice Krispies with sugar on them, which is what your parents did for you as a kid anyway. This whole time, you weren't missing anything. Just so you know." But I then thought that, even if that were true, at least I would know for sure. Plus I also reasoned that even though Frosted Flakes are corn flakes with sugar on them, somehow they are better than just putting sugar on corn flakes, so maybe that would be the case with Frosted Krispies as well. Somehow I knew that was a bunch of crap though--I knew that my wiser, inner self was right. But still I had to find out for sure.

And guess what? Now I know for sure that I really wasn't missing anything. Frosted Krispies taste exactly how I imagined in that little moment of foreshadowed clarity in the store. They taste like Rice Krispies with sugar on them. Sadly, I would even rank them over with the Cocoa Puffs and Golden Grahams. Maybe, like one notch better than those, but not much at all.

Of course since I'm the parent, now it's my job to finish the box, much like my dad did several years ago. It is the burden I now bear...

Apr 12, 2011

Connecting Folks Since 1977 (or so)...

So, I'm the introspective type. Much of the time I think this is a strength. I like to process, and be as healthy--and as awesomely-awesome--as I can be, and all that. Sometimes of course, I over-think, which triggers my neuroses and contributes to panic, and probably makes me a little narcissistic. But whatever.

For me, what it comes down to is figuring out who I am and where I fit into the mix. I like to belong, and I like to know what I'm good at, and more importantly, I like to be aware of the things we should never, ever, put Skerrib in charge of (so far this list includes scrapbooking conventions, spa nights, telephone parties, and the knitting of garments).

Growing up as a church-kid, one of the things I got into was spiritual gift assessments. You know, the quizzes where you try desperately not to come up with the spiritual gift of service, because then you'll be stuck doing dishes and emptying trash & stuff, when you really want to be up front giving the entire congregation what-for, and foretelling churchwide plagues, and whatnot. Or maybe that's just me. The thing about spiritual gifts (or any) assessments is that they can get stupid quickly. I constantly over-thought the quizzes and came up with such varied results that, depending on the test, I had pretty much every gift (except mercy--that is one I will never be accused of having).

Well, after several years I stopped taking the assessments, and starting telling people I had the spiritual gift of "hanging out." Which sounds like a cop-out, but when it comes down to it, that's what I'm good at. I'm not huge into entertaining, per se, but I do enjoy having people over for informal meals and just talking, playing games, or whatever. Some of my favorite times with friends have been days spent running errands together. I enjoy being someone around whom people can feel free to be themselves (and I have since discovered that I'm probably some combination of teacher-pastor-administrator, but I'm still fairly adamant about the whole hanging-out thing).

Adding to this conundrum is the fact that God seems to have determined that I am someone who--for the time being anyway--moves every few years. So I am in & out of communities. I enjoy forming deep relationships but don't have the benefit of lots of time to form them. So I jump in where I can, and do what I can while I can before it's on to the next place. Which is a bummer in that I start over a lot, and therefore feel like I'm repeating myself all the time and going "Have I told you this before?"

Well, recently I read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point describes the spot where mere fads become phenomena. Like how the entire nation becomes obsessed with a particular purse brand, or how suddenly everyone is taking swing dancing lessons, or entire school districts suddenly have to make a policy to regulate Pokemon cards.

As it turns out, the secret is less about the fads themselves and more about the people promoting them. Gladwell describes three main people who help spread fads: Mavens, Salespeople, and Connectors. Salespeople are fairly self-explanatory, and I forget what Mavens are, but Connectors are what caught my eye. Connectors have a foot in lots of different worlds, and have a way of, well, connecting people who wouldn't otherwise go together.

And it so happens that I am a connector. As far as skills and such go, I'm much more of a generalist than a specialist. I've tried about a zillion different things in my life, but have "stuck" with very few. I like knowing a little bit about a lot of things. Even in recent years as I have had to narrow my scope, I still keep a toe in several regions, if not worlds. And few things make me happier than seeing others make connections. So it totally makes sense that I am one to use my experiences in different places and with (fairly-vastly) different things to bring people together who might not meet otherwise. In other words, I like using my powers for good.

I'm not saying this is my entire identity or anything, but it helps complete the picture for me, and that makes me happy. Now, go get coffee with a friend, or meet someone new and surprising, or something. Tell 'em Skerrib sent you...

Mar 25, 2011

Hyperbole and a Half...

Oh. My. Goodness. You must click on the following link:

Hyperbole and a Half

Based on the post at the link, it is possible the author has been secretly stalking me and stealing my life stories so she could make awesomely-awesome comics to go with them. More likely I have simply found a friend of sorts who shares parts of my humor and neurosis. If by "friend" you mean someone I've never met, but I did post a comment on her "About" page. In online terms, we're practically BFF.

If you do click above (which you should since I told you to do it), be aware that there's a little profanity. Not a lot, but just to make you aware in case you have sensitive eyes/ears--it's there.

You could tell her Skerrib sent you, but she'll have no idea what you're talking about, so just enjoy...

Mar 20, 2011

On Culture and Protocol...

Last week I wrote about all sorts of things, among them my then-upcoming luncheon with the general's wife. Knowing well the stereotypes associated with officers' wives, and particularly those in the higher ranks, I spoke of my contingency plans should my fears of snobbery and pretense prove true. It would make a great story if I had the opportunity to storm out in an indignant huff, or got to give some arrogant woman a verbal dressing-down.

The simple truth, however, is that we had a lovely time. Not like an "Oh-my-goodness-that-was-the-most-exhilarating-ever" time, but more like a "Yum-this-is-delicious-and-it's-nice-to-meet-you-all" time. Many of the houses on the base here are huge and historic, so Mrs. General told us the historic points about their 10,000 square foot abode. It has a little balcony on the second floor that faces out over the parade field. The story goes that one time Teddy Roosevelt was there and was all, "Hey, you could use some trees out front," so they put in two rows of now-gigantic evergreen trees (about 20 total), which frame the view from the balcony quite nicely. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.

There are several perks that come with the higher ranks. The luncheon was arranged by the base protocol office, and the food was prepared & served by Air Force chefs. The entire day was planned out for the generals' wives, and there were folks to drive them around to all their activities. And since they were out & about on a schedule, a rep from the protocol office was on hand back at the house to let us luncheon guests in, and to make sure everything proceeded as scheduled. In short, with great responsibilities come staff to help you juggle them all.

Thankfully, I had my own personal protocol staff in the form of my friend the Chaplain's Wife, whom I mentioned before is from the South and knows things about manners and stuff. She had also been to enough official shindigs (pastors & chaplains, and by extension their spouses, get invited to a lot of these) that she knew about hostess gifts, and had the forethought to check with the protocol office to see if hostess gifts were appropriate in this case, to which they replied that they certainly weren't necessary, but from a protocol standpoint it would be a nice gesture.

Which means, in a nutshell, that all the cool people are doing it.

And because she is awesome, the Chaplain's Wife gave me a heads-up, so I had enough time to stop on the way over. I chose a festive bottle of Bailey's, which I figured was appropriate given the St. Patrick's Day season. Either that, or the general and his wife are teetotalers and were totally offended that I would suggest they kick back a few from a bead-adorned bottle. Hostess gift: check.

And herein lies my dilemma. All this etiquette and protocol stuff is readily available to me via the Officers' Spouses Handbook, but I have thus far kept a longstanding vow to never purchase said handbook. I leafed through it once in the military clothing store for the sole purpose of scoffing at it. In my first round of therapy, the counselor--a retired major--told me to buy the book to help with my transition to military life, and I flat-out told him no (which was hugely bold of me at the time). I did not, and still do not, understand why the how-to's of writing thank-you notes, and which length of dress & how many petticoats to wear to which function, are what the Air Force deems essential for helping mil-wives navigate an entire sub-culture. The Spouses' Handbook should be subtitled something like "Everything you need to know to avoid making a fool of yourself at official functions; but for the rest you're on your own."

Here's the thing about the protocol. I get it; I understand the purpose of it. I've heard it said that etiquette is more than anything about showing people you care about them; that you are not taking them for granted and/or mistaking them for a portion of the floor or furniture, or something. I'm all about showing the love. The problem with taking something as warm and fuzzy as showing love, and boiling it down to a formulaic list of customs and courtesies, is that instead of focusing on showing love & being yourself, you are overly afraid you're going to mess up something on the list. The problem with protocol is that in our fear we miss out on the best of each other.

What were we talking about again?

Right, the luncheon. There were ten of us, I believe. The two generals' wives, two colonels' wives, both the incoming and outgoing presidents of the Warren Spouses Club, and the finalists from the 2010 Spouse of the Year (I was in the latter category). We all found things we had in common. Mostly we talked about dogs and kids and, keeping true to form, I got to briefly break from the appropriate and pleasant, and share how Pim was eaten by coyotes when we were living in California. The visiting general's wife asked us to each tell a little bit about ourselves and, true to form again, I babbled a little bit when it came to my turn. In my mind I was a red-faced nervous goofball, but history tells me it probably didn't show too much.

Both generals' wives were totally cool. If we were all sitting at my table drinking a Coke, I think we'd have made each other laugh hysterically. Because of the formalities, even though we had a good time, I think we didn't get to know each other quite as well as we could have. But maybe that's a necessary evil. I mean, you (I) can't be BFF with everyone, and you (I) certainly can't expect a luncheon to be a regular gateway to such relationships.

So maybe my unease with protocol is that, as a relational person, it simply doesn't match well with how I best like to spend my time. Some folks enjoy shindigs as a rule. I don't mind them sometimes, but if my entire life was formal and official, with no letting down and burping out loud in front of each other, I would poke my eyeballs out. I have small children--poop is such a major theme in my life that I must be permitted to talk about it. Often. But if I were a general's wife, and I went along with my husband to visit another base, would I want to talk with random other spouses and hear their poop stories? Maybe at first, but I bet it would get old.

So anyway, we ate our pot-pies and salads and dessert. We held our cloth napkins in our laps and only started eating after the guest of honor did. I caught myself at one point trying to pry the crust from my bowl with my fingers, and switched to a fork instead. But I heard later that one of the colonel's wives was doing the same thing, and it made me happy to hear that she enjoys the crust as much as I do. We talked. We toured. We took turns standing on the balcony and looking out through Teddy Roosevelt's evergreens onto the parade field. I waved at the escort staff below and said, "Hello! This is my official wave!" and they waved back. I am a big dork. But a happy dork.

We got word that the generals were running ahead of schedule (miracle of miracles), and the ladies were whisked off to join them for the next event on their itinerary. And then it was time to go. Three of us walked out together, commenting that our 15 minutes of base-wide semi-fame were up, and we had to get back to our glamorous lives of laundry and grocery runs.

I think I do OK if I remember the place of protocol. When I show good manners, it shows simply that I know how to show good manners. It speaks very little about who I am, and it certainly doesn't diminish my awesomeness if I am unaware or forgetful of a particular bit of protocol. So my recommendation to you, if you are ever invited to a luncheon with the general's wife, is to go and enjoy.

And don't forget to wave from the balcony...

Mar 14, 2011

Weeks 9-11--Mrs. Fancy Pants...

I love pretty much everything about this photo. Not that the photo itself is anything to write home about (Hipstamatic iPhone app, Jimmy lens, Ina's 1969 film, no flash), but I remember the moment and it makes me laugh. We were in Ft. Collins this past Saturday for their annual St. Patrick's Day parade, which I highly recommend, especially when it's in the 50's and partly sunny. We went down with our neighbor and her son, who is friends with the boyz. Another lady from my moms' group caravanned down with us as well, but due to traffic and detours and such she ended up another block up on the route and decided to stay put. I can't say I blame her either, since she was right near the coolest toy store in town. I hope she took advantage of the situation and ducked in after the parade. Just saying.

Anyway, so this nattily-dressed dude rolled by in this fantastic vintage car labeled "Dollar Discount," and I said, "Hey, it's the Pope!" And about 2 seconds later I thought to myself, "Um, Skerrib, I think that's St. Patrick, being a St Patty's parade and all." Which the CatDaddy also generously explained. I looked apologetically at our neighbor, who happens to be Catholic. She didn't bat an eye though; she has been very patient with my protestant ignorance about Lent & such. It's not that I'm unaware, it's just that since I don't practice it I don't think about things like not eating meat on Fridays, and how not every pious guy in a robe & tall hat is necessarily the pope, and whatnot.

Either way, we all enjoyed some Smashburger after the parade, followed by a quick trip thru Toys R Us before all the boys signaled their nap-readiness by falling apart to varying degrees. So we headed home and that was that.

Early-eary Sunday was spent in a flurry of sheet-changing, as His Highness woke (in our bed) with a yucky, pukey tummy-bug. We got the spares put on, and I brought in a big bowl just in case, and all of us back to sleep...and then he did it again. Obviously to a lesser degree, as there wasn't much left in his stomach this time around, but unfortunately we did not get the bowl under him in time. So we stripped the bed again, and I dug out the really old spares, and dozed off again for a short time before I began to feel sick as well. So my early-morning was spent in a massive body purge through several available orifices (luckily I have quick reflexes and made it to the bathroom with both time and fluid-receptacles to spare). And the Littler One woke up looking mildly distressed, saying "pooooo-peeeee" with a diaper that I best not describe. So my sum total was one puker, one pooper, and yours truly with both.

The Cat Daddy was on the worship team at church and feeling fine, but needless to say the rest of us did not make it to church that morning. Once we were more or less awake for the day we trekked downstairs and turned on NicJr, which is His Highness's current favorite channel. They say they're like Preschool on TV. I say they're like watching preschool on TV, and TV stations should be careful about going around and making such claims because watching preschool on TV doesn't even come close to playing with friends and making art & stuff at His Highness's actual Awesome Preschool...but I do like NicJr as far as kid-TV goes. While the nastiest parts of the sickness were done by breakfast-time, we spent the entire day languishing about the house, and I was mildly concerned that I would never again feel better. This happens nearly every time I get a stomach bug, and is one of the reasons I despise stomach bugs.

Today I kept His Highness home from Awesome Preschool and we rested for most of the day. We were mostly back to normal, but I didn't want to do that thing where you wake up feeling pretty good, and then you go out & tackle life, only to feel like poop by mid-afternoon. So we were mellow, and ate light, and walked to the park in the afternoon, and I think by tomorrow it'll be time to tackle life again.

Now, Wednesday. Wednesday it so happens that I am attending a luncheon on base, hosted by a general's wife. I'm not sure whether it's a general or the general. I think it's the general, because I think we only have one general on base, but I'm not positive. Regardless, another general's wife is visiting from another state, so our general's wife is throwing her a shindig, I guess, and invited all the spouses of the quarters from last year (Of which I am one. Oh yes I am). Or something.

I am anxious to see what it is like. When the Cat Daddy first joined the Air Force my mom informed me about having to dress up, and attend teas, and whatnot. And I scoffed at her and threatened to dye my hair blue (which, unfortunately, would not complement my warm palette, so I never did it). So here I am, 10 years later, attending a luncheon, and what is a luncheon but a tea with some chicken caesar salad instead of finger sandwiches? The dressing up is an interesting point, because the scheduled attire is "business casual." As it's been a while since I've done any actual business, I will need to do some digging, but I think I can find something that is not a hoodie, and maybe--just maybe--I will wear pants of the non-denim variety. But maybe not; depends on my anxiety level on the actual day. And the weather.

So my neurotic side is gearing up for dealing with all levels of snootiness and pretense. I'm planning how I will make a gracious yet poignant exit if anyone makes a snide remark about my possible choice of jeans or starts berating nerds, or something. My realistic side is telling me to get a grip. After all, my neurotic side is making a plan based on stereotypes rather than actual experience. Good gracious, Skerrib!

On the other hand, should the event turn out to be perfectly lovely, I am quite skilled at ditching the neurotic contingency and just hanging out & having fun. So maybe I'm just covering my bases. Besides, my friend the Chaplain's Wife will be there too (we are quality individuals with our quarterly awards, you know), and she always makes things fun. Plus she is Southern and knows manners & stuff, and is very kind about helping me out when I get a little clueless. I will just watch to see which fork she uses, and try to refrain from talking about my poop/puke weekend.

So here's to the common people. I will report back soon with tales of refinement and culture. Wish me luck...

Feb 28, 2011

Emerging Sanity & Other Thoughts...

I keep learning more & more about myself through various cycles of neurosis. The past few months have been one for the record books in terms of familial sickness--of the mild, everyday sort, thank God--as well as regular old hecticness. Hecticity. Hectonomy. The state of being hectic.

It's been a little hectic.

At the same time I've been battling a sort of controlled neurosis. As I swing back toward confidence I'm not sure the exact relationship between the hectic and the neurotic; I just know a relationship exists and I'm trying to keep track of hints & tips I'm picking up along the way...

To-do lists are my friend. Lately I take 10 minutes on Sunday night and plan my week. I look at my monthly calendar, my ongoing to-do list, and my upcoming weekly calendar, inserting tasks where I can fit them. It has helped immensely with being realistic about how much I can get done, and what can be put off & for how long...

Simplifying my life can mean lots of different things. I resisted getting a steam mop for a long time cuz I was afraid of adding another gadget to the pile. But guess what? In purchasing one fabulous steam mop I was able to get rid of the broom, mop, & Swiffer (OK I gave the swiffer to the kids), and I reduced the job in question from 2-3 hours to less than one. With no added chemicals. Much simpler...

Sleep is probably the second most important factor in my productivity, after the to-do lists. Some folks can stay up later to get more done after the kids are in bed. When I try this more than very rarely, I end up pretty much useless in the daytime. I kept beating myself up for falling asleep while putting the Littler One to bed (our version of sleep training involves lying next to him while he falls asleep in his own bed, but that's another post), but eventually I said to myself, "Skerrib, if you're falling asleep you're obviously tired. Just admit that you're not going to do anything after the kids' bedtime." So I stopped planning tasks for the evening (other than, like, AWANA), and on the occasions where I manage to stay awake I have used the time for "me" stuff such as reading and flossing and whatnot. Badda-bing, badda-boom. It's not as though everything is suddenly on a tight schedule and I'm swimming in spare time, but stuff is getting done more often and my house is a little less of a disaster a little more of the time...

**Side story--one night a few weeks ago we held FOCUS group (church small group) at our house. One of the ladies said, "Skerrib, I know something's different from the last time but I'm not sure what. Tell me what you did." And I replied, "I cleaned. I'm not even kidding." And it was the truth--I couldn't think of a single thing that was different, other than the fact that I had had more time than usual to tidy & vacuum before the group came over. I think she might've felt bad, but I hope not 'cuz I thought it was hilarious. End side story**

Right after Christmas I went through the toys and took out a bunch to toss/give away/donate. Last week I took another portion and set them out of reach. The rate of disaster in the basement is markedly less since then. I'm seriously tempted to have another go-round at weeding out.

On top of that, the Littler One is not getting any toys for his second birthday. We've asked the grandparents to give to his college fund, and we are getting him a couple books, and that's it. IF we have a friend-party I'm going to ask people to bring PJ's and books to donate to the Pajama Program in place of gifts. I'm brazenly swiping this idea from a friend who did it for her daughter's 2nd birthday (it worked swimmingly for them). Now, whether or not the grandmas will be able to adhere to our request is another question; they are certain the boys spend hours sitting in the basement with absolutely nothing to play with, and therefore need more stuff!! But the intent is there, so that's a start...

I had some conflict to work out recently, and I found it less tiring than the hecticnicity. For me, this is progress. By no means was it easy or fun, but I told myself "Skerrib, you are a grown-up and you can do this, and you have to do it if you want to feel healthy and sane." I think there's a lot to be said about regular, healthy challenges. For example, I hate talking on the phone. I generally try to avoid it, but if I am too successful at avoiding it, I tend to sink into fear over it, and then things get messy. By contrast, I had a couple telecons for work over several weeks, and by the last one I was feeling pretty decent about talking with my work peeps.

Kind of like when I am tired and feeling like poop. If I stay home and lie around I will generally feel more & more sluggish, but if I take a jog--no matter how slow--I will feel at least a little better every time...

...Speaking of which, I tried out my fancy new racing flats today, for about 10 minutes of highly-successful zero-drop running after a short-ish jog around town (including the library, 'cuz the Littler One and I are awesome). It's right in there with the healthy challenge thing. It's something a little new & different, but not too crazy or strenuous, and it makes me love running even more. The whole thing just makes me happy...

The Cat Daddy started putting the Littler One down to sleep yesterday. This also makes me incredibly happy, since the Littler One goes down much, much easier for the Cat Daddy, and it also lets us drop another nursing session from the routine. By now you all know I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, and I firmly believe in each mom/baby deciding for themselves when to wean (instead of an arbitrarily-prescribed age with little consideration to the mom or baby's individual needs)...and I can say confidently that it is time for the Littler One to be on this weaning path, no matter how gradual.

There was some talk of mutiny on the Cat Daddy's part, however. I think he finds it tiring to put the Littler One to sleep. I plan to, um, talk it out with him so we can figure out a solution, which I really hope doesn't involve reinstating the bedtime nursing session. 'Cuz that would suck. On several levels...

Feb 22, 2011

(Not Quite) Shoeless Skerrib...

I'm embarking upon what you might call the next chapter in my hippie-fication. Hippie-ness? Hippie-something, because now, after steel-cut oats, breastfeeding, and home birthing, I'm gonna start running barefoot. More or less.

It started several months ago, when I had a couple visits with my physical therapist for my same old back/butt/SI issues. She whacked me back into place--except for the dang sacrum--and we pretty much determined that exercises are the key to my feeling as well as possible until the time comes for me to get needles stuck in my butt and whack the sacrum into submission. But that's another post.

So the PT told me how she had started running barefoot, and how much she was enjoying it. And while she played college soccer, she was not a runner before. But now she runs barefoot, and actually looks forward to running, and she thought it might be a good fit for me, and that I should consider trying it.

I was listening with my ever-so-slightly skeptical Uh-huh's, but I gave her more credit than I would give average-crazy-runner, being that she is a PT (a good one), and wouldn't just embark on something without being reasonably sure that she wasn't about to injure or maim herself. I mean, she went to PT school and knows a lot about joints & muscles & stuff, so I trust her judgement. Anyway, she told me about a book she read called Born to Run, and said I should read it. She gave me an impromptu book report on it, and everything.

Well, after that I was intrigued. It so happened that I had some Target store credit, which I used to order the book online. And then I read it, and then I realized I most certainly had to give this barefoot running thing a try.

The theory goes that people have been running for thousands of years, and it's only in the past 30-40 years that we started wearing special shoes for it, so how on earth did Joe-Caveman do all that running without hurting himself, while today we have to worry about pronation, and plantar fasciitis, and popping knees, and stuff?

Turns out there's this tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara (or Raramuri, depending on the situation and context) who are a running people. They live in the canyons of Mexico, and you have to go thru some serious danger to even find them, but they are a peaceful people, sticking mostly to themselves. They'll get together and have 60 mile races for fun. To warm up at school on chilly mornings, the kids will play a running game with a wooden ball for roughly 4 miles. Just to get the blood flowing, you know.

So in a nutshell, it's all about form. Basically (in true American style), by creating all these cushioned shoes for ourselves, we've actually weakened the muscles that are intended to protect our feet & joints & stuff during running. Probably the biggest difference is that our big ol' shoes allow us to run with a heel strike, which is a big instigator of a whole lot of forces and stresses and a huge contributor to a lot of running-related injuries. Take away most or all of the cushioning, and your body finds the form it needs to strengthen the muscles needed to cushion its own joints as well as possible.

That's the theory anyway. It's still pretty controversial in some circles, and some folks are adamantly against it, but I think there's a lot to it. One of the reasons I love running is for its simplicity, and to simplify it even further? I'm all for that. Plus there's a lot of leeway for running barefoot only sometimes if you want, as a sort of training supplement or something.

It can't be done all at once though. I can't just up and run 3 miles barefoot without risking serious injury. I mean, I've been running (really running) in shoes for 20 years. My muscles are very accustomed to this way of doing things. So it has to be done very gradually. A couple weeks ago, I ran on a treadmill in sock-feet for just 5 minutes after my regular workout, and I was tired! Per the program I looked up online, two days later I did 10 minutes "barefoot" (this time in socks on the base gym floor), and had a little soreness in my calves. This is normal as my body adjusts to the altered form, and I will work my way up from there.

Now, since then I have been outdoors only, and it's waaaaaay too cold to go barefoot. Unless I want to freeze my toes off, which I don't, so it's been shoes for me. Plus it turns out I'm a bit of a priss about my feet. I'm not huge on calluses and stuff, which I would certainly have to develop if I took up full-time barefoot running. Thankfully there's an in-between option called zero-drop.

Remember how I talked about our thick, modern, cushioned shoes? One of their characteristics is that they elevate the heel several millimeters. No big deal at first glance, but even a little elevation can have big effects on stride, and form, and muscles. Taking away this "drop" between the heel and ball of the foot (hence the term "zero-drop") brings things a little closer to what it's like to run barefoot.

There are always the Vibram Five-Fingers--those are the things that look like gloves for your feet. It would certainly be funky & cool to run around in those. But they are on the order of $150, and my problem is that, if I'm going to go all hippie with the running, I don't want to start having to pay MORE to wear shoes that deliberately do LESS. No, if I'm going to be a hippie about it I want to do it on the cheap.

I think I may have found a nice middle ground. Back in the day lots of my friends wore track spikes and/or racing flats at meets...tiny little shoes with next to zero cushioning. In theory they maximized speed, minimized times, and made you look like a real runner (I did not have them at the time--I did not look like a real runner). The weakness with the racing flats is that they are snug and don't let your toes splay properly, but I think if nothing else they will be good enough for me to decide if I want to pursue this barefoot-thing further.

There's a little more transition as I find the right size racing flats. As it turns out they are not super-accurate to one's normal size so I have to do a little back & forth with Zappo's. I'm hoping by the end of this week I'll be able to try out the new shoes for 10 minutes outdoors, and go from there.

Here goes (next to) nothing...

Exploding Thoughts...

Well, today I found out that my project at work has been shut down more or less temporarily. "More or less temporarily" meaning it's definitely shut down for now, but the tentative plan is to start this particular project back up at the end of the year. With these things you really can never tell what will happen though. Between now and the fall it could morph from a radar system into some sort of purple jumping monkey in a box, and then where would we be? Not here, that's for sure.

I am speaking quietly yet firmly to my neurotic side, telling me that it is not my fault, that I am not nearly high enough in the hierarchy to affect whether a project is stopped or not. Most likely it is budget concerns somewhere. This is the nature of my project-oriented work structure, and even though it's disappointing, it is why my company and I can be so flexible with each other, which certainly counts for something.

Now, my lazy and non-work-focused sides are jumping up & down a little bit because I have made the decision to finish out the week of childcare for my kiddos, leaving me some time to organize my home office, catch up on personal emails, and of course throw some thoughts up on the ol' blog. Possible topics include barefoot running, friends on welfare, and how to whack your friends over the head with grace (God's, that is)...without ruining the whole thing.

Good times...

Feb 20, 2011

Weeks 7-8--Movie Night

Tomorrow is a holiday for the Cat Daddy, so we are celebrating with a movie night. About half an hour is left in Secretariat, and I am the only one in my family still awake. A quiet movie night...

Feb 5, 2011

Weeks 4-6--Wintry Mix...

Well it's a good thing I'm not being graded on consistency, eh? To make up for the missed weeks I shall post three pics...or four...

This is a little bit better shot of our newest family member, aka Nipples. He's proving a little tough to photograph, as he's quick and doesn't stay in the frame for long. I can hardly blame him; I usually have two little crazies trailing close behind me who adore the kitty and whose highest expressions of affection are to either pick him up or squish him flat. Seriously, two seconds after I got the above shot we ended up with variations of this:

They are like his own, personal fan club. Of obsessed, obnoxious fans who won't let him get some peace & tranquility already...

I often find my children atop the counters. I often find that my children have swiped my phone. In this situation I found both at once...

This is a shot of our kitchen window the day that we hit minus 5 as our high temperature. That's ice on the inside of our slick, modern double-panes, there. I took a little time (very little) to debate my stance on the whole ridiculously-cold thing. I mean, geez it was cold. On this particular day we went out just before lunchtime; however I did choose to delay the planned morning commissary trip until the next day when it was closer to zero. We bundled & layered, and zipped and mittened, and warmed up the car for way longer than you're supposed to, and it wasn't too bad. While being out of AZ has killed my heat tolerance, 9 1/2 years of varying degrees of winter have made me very hearty, indeed. And don't even get me started on my kids. The little human furnaces act like they were born in an igloo or something. As you can see above they run around in their skivvies regardless of the season. And it could be 20 degrees out, and they'll be fussing about coats, and I'll be all, "Look, I don't want you to get frostbite, I'm going to have to require that you put your coat on." And I'll get heavy, 4-year-old sighs and grumbly little "O-kayyyyy"s.

Anyhow, when it comes to comfort levels there is something to be said about how once it gets below a certain point, cold is just cold. And that's just how it was. Cold.

Besides, windowpanes aside, the house stayed at our usual winter temperature of 65, so we were warm & comfy indoors. It was a good time for hot drinks and sliding around the wood floors in our socks.

But we're still glad it's back up in the 20s and 30s these days...

Jan 15, 2011

Week 3--The Whole Story...

Just in case you found your way here in search of, shall we say, "grown-ups only" material, let me be the first to tell you that the only thing you'll find is, at best, a random sort of mommy-blog with (I hope) some good stories about my crazy life.

Now, onward with what should clear up some delightful ambiguities regarding my Facebook posts referencing "Nipples."
Which is actually kind of funny, because the story begins on Facebook. Sort of. The story really began in late 1995 (my freshman year of college), but for purposes of brevity let us start with about three weeks ago, when an old college friend posted on Facebook that she was looking for a home for her two Bengal cats, as they'd just found out about asthma & allergies with her youngest kiddo.

You may recall my posting about Pim and his unfortunate demise a while back. At the time we decided, instead of enabling Zoe's constant and annoying habit of chasing down kitties, we would get a second dog to keep her company. This is how we got Max.

The only problem was that the Cat Daddy really is more of a cat person than a dog person, and he really does enjoy being a cat daddy. I like cats, but not as much as dogs, and I detest dealing with litter boxes, so I kept fending off his hints and outright suggestions (he even got His Highness to bat his eyelashes and tell me we needed at kitty). But I knew that the Cat Daddy really, really wanted a cat.

And as we swing back around to my friend and her Bengal cats, three things should also be known: the Cat Daddy has long-dreamed of someday owning a Bengal cat, and since I named Pim it had been more or less agreed upon that he would get to name the next cat, and his name of choice was Nipples.

Which brings us full-circle to my friend's post, hopefully demonstrating that, clearly, there was little I could do to thwart the kitty gods on this one. We couldn't take both cats, but as it turned out another friend had popped up who could also take only one cat. Badda boom, badda bing--homes for both kitties.

The only remaining hurdle was the fact that my friend is in Phoenix and we are in Wyoming, complicated slightly by the frigid winter temperatures that were cold enough to result in a ban on shipping animals, even in the heated cargo comparents.

So, of course, the answer was to hop a plane to Phoenix, pick up the kitty--lovingly chauffeured to the airport by my friend, his previous owner--and fly back home again. All within the same day, so as to minimize the chance of conflicting with the Cat Daddy's work commitments.

Kind of silly, but in fact comparable in cost to shipping him, and for this busy mom, not a bad way to take a little break for a day. As a bonus, my folks and grandma met me at the airport and treated me to lunch...and Phoenix Sky Harbor airport is big enough that lunch included real food instead of, like, hot tamales candy and half-warm soda from one of those old school machines that spit it out in a cup. So it was nice. They stayed long enough to meet their new grand-kitty (Mom's word) before heading out to a weekend shindig and sending me thru security to catch the flight home.

As for the name. My friend named him Aldo, which I think is a spectacular cat (or dog) name to begin with, but it is also a family name for my friend. The Cat Daddy is of course bent on changing it to Nipples, and while I'd previously been afraid that people wouldn't let their kids to come over & play at a house with a cat named Nipples, I have to say the response has been primarily one of amusement, rather than horror. So in the spirit of compromise I suggested we make his official name Aldo Nipples, and agree that people can call him either name.

At least for time being. I'm still on the flight home, and the Cat Daddy has already had a nametag emblazoned with "Nipples," so we can all think forward to a year from now and guess what everyone, myself included, will be calling him...

Jan 8, 2011

2011--Week Two

Today we were a family of hardcore joggers. There is a high school wrestler in town who got injured & is now paralyzed from the neck down--some folks organized a race to raise money to help with his medical bills and ongoing recovery and all that. Kids from all the high schools in town were there either as participants or volunteers. High schoolers are always fun at a race because (a) they are fast, but not in my age group, (b) they--particularly boys--are not afraid to do dumb stuff like running shirtless together as a team in the 30 degree weather, or dressing up in crazy outfits, or whatever (full-grown adults dress up in crazy outfits for races like the Boulder Boulder & Muddy Buddy, which is probably why I enjoy those races so much).

The great thing about being in a smaller town is the kind of turnout this sort of thing can produce. I'm an easy target for running in a race--"Hey Skerrib, there's a race this week, wanna run in it?" "Heck yes!" But lots of other folks who wouldn't normally participate in a race came out to either run a 5K or walk the mile (and a half?) course in support of the injured wrestler. We got to see lots of friends & acquaintances, which is most always good for perking up a somewhat dreary Saturday morning.

Even the Cat Daddy, who would normally recoil and twitch at the thought of running a 5K, ran today. He's been trying to improve his run times for work so he had an ulterior motive, but I'll take what I can get. We pawned off the boys on some friends who were doing the walk, leaving us free to run like the wind, which we did.

Well, long story short, neither of us won a prize, but I came in at 25:43 which I was very pleased with. I also beat the Cat Daddy which always pleases me, even though he is adamantly a sprinter and really couldn't care less about any distance longer than a mile and a half, and that's only 'cuz he's required to care about it for work.

As for the photo, I will offer a quick explanation of what each person was thinking at that moment. I, of course, was grinning a dumb grin of glee, having finished well and enjoyed myself immensely. The Cat Daddy was happy to be done, and was ready to go home and get on with the day. His Highness had cold hands and really wanted his mittens, but mean Mommy made him wait a few minutes and have his picture taken with the fam first. The Littler One, having just woken up from a snooze, was pleased that I had arrived at the finish line to hang out with him.

And finally, in the interest of full disclosure, this photo was taken with my phone, as I didn't even think to bring my camera to the race. Go figure...

Jan 1, 2011

2011--Week One

I sure hope the rules of this photo-blogging thing don't state that I absolutely must post a photo I took on the same day. If I did that, today's photo would be of a blank wall, because my entire family is asleep and I'm enjoying the resulting quiet of such a situation. Hmmmm...come to think of it, let me set forth the rules as I see them--

--The photo of the week must be from within the past week
--The photo of the week must be taken by the camera I received for Christmas
--I can break either rule if I have a really good reason for it, and if I explain it in my photo description

So there you have it.

This photo is from this past Tuesday morning, in between family visits. The Cat Daddy's mom was here for Christmas itself, and left Monday evening (12/27). My folks came the next evening, 12/28, and left this evening, 1/1/11. It has been a whirlwind time of family and fun, mostly for the kiddos and their grandparents because, oh my goodness, they pretty much all thought each other were the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Cat Daddy and I had our own versons of fun of course--my favorite was going to bed early several nights in a row, in heavy protest of a lingering cold.

Long story short, Monday starts us back to the regular grind, which I'm looking forward to at the moment, but I suspect by about 2pm Monday I'll wish I could rewind about 5 days or so, because I'm just that fickle sometimes...